A new wave of petty criminals have taken over Anambra State. This is coming as the governor of the state, Prof Chukwuma Soludo seems to have defeated killer gunmen, also known as unknown gunmen.
Previously, the state was held hostage by dreaded gunmen, who engaged in daily killings, beheading of victims, kidnap of motorists and open shootout in busy junctions in most parts of the state.
At some point in the state, up to four different cases of kidnap were recorded in one day, while the lucky ones were only dispossessed of their vehicles for use in deadly operations.
Top politicians and individuals were not also spared, to the point that a lawmaker and his aide were kidnapped and beheaded. The lawmaker, Hon Okey Okoye and his aide, Cyril Chiegboka were beheaded after ransom was allegedly collected and their severed head found in a town far away from Aguata where they were kidnapped and their trunk in a separate town too.
The husband of late former minister of information, Prof Dora Akunyili, Dr Chike Akunyili was also hacked down by the gunmen in broad daylight at Nkpor junction, Onitsha, shortly after he collected a posthumous award on behalf of his late spouse.
The gunmen, operating in broad daylight in the very busy Nkpor Junction close to Onitsha, pumped a hail of bullets into his face to send him to an untimely death. He was said to have been mistaken for a politician, as he was riding in a black Toyota Prado SUV, and had a police orderly. His orderly was also not spared as he was also shot dead.
During the period, public facilities were not spared. Facilities belonging to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the Nigeria Police and many others were attacked. The police seemed the most hit as many police stations in Anambra were attacked, razed and many police operatives paid the supreme price.
About seven local government areas of the state were found to have almost been taken over by the deadly criminals. Bushes of most of the communities were taken over as camps, while sources also stated that energetic young men in many communities were forcefully conscripted into the gang, led through oaths, and made to participate in the orgy of killing.
Anambra State governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, working with security agencies declared war on them, pounding them in their various hideouts on a daily basis, until their strength waned. But, just as the state heaves a sigh of relief from the activities of the bloodsuckers, small crimes seem to be the major problem of Anambra today.
In recent times, most parts of the Anambra State capital, Awka, have become difficult to access at odd times, with criminals operating in tricycles now terrorising residents of the city.
The thieves, who operate with locally made arms and in a group of four or more, usually operate using tricycles. Their strategy is usually to swoop on unsuspecting people, sometimes in a beer joint and dispossess them of their phones.
A source told DAILY POST that this became their latest strategy after the cashless economy made it difficult to find anyone with a lump sum.
“Some carry POS machines with them, but sometimes, they simply raid a place and take away people’s phones; they now use the SIM cards to try to access their bank accounts.
“The not so lucky ones sometimes get kidnapped and are forced to pay ransom by making transfers to dedicated bank accounts before they are allowed to go,” the source said.
A female journalist (name withheld) recently experienced this fate when her husband was kidnapped.
She told this reporter that the incident happened right in front of their house after they returned home from shopping.
According to her, the husband had alighted from the car to open the gate when some men, riding in a tricycle, ordered him back into the car at gunpoint, while the female journalist and her children were pushed out and her husband taken to an unknown destination.
The journalist was to have her child dedication and the reception on the weekend before the incident.
A note she sent to this reporter read: “Cancellation of Child Dedication Reception. This is to inform you that the dedication of our child will hold as planned on Sunday. However, the reception has been cancelled. This is due to the kidnap of my husband on Wednesday, 12/04/23 at the gate of our compound in Okpuno, Awka. To the glory of God he was released by his captors in the early hours of Thursday, 13/04/23 at a forest in Mbaukwu. The experience was traumatic for my husband.”
It was learnt that the man was released after he was forced to transfer money running into millions from his account to those of his captors.
In another incident, this reporter almost fell victim to gun-toting young men.
The reporter was approached by a robber wielding a pump action rifle, which he held to the head of this reporter, demanding for his phone.
Through a stroke of luck, the reporter flung the phone far away from both himself and the robber, and dashed in a different direction, causing the robber to release a shot in the air, before taking to his heels, abandoning this reporter and even the phone.
In Onitsha, armed robbers operating in mini-buses, who are known as ‘one chance’ robbers, have taken over the town.
They usually pose as commuters and once they pick up a passenger, they force-drive them to an area where they rob them of their belongings, or even hold them hostage until ransom is paid.
An Onitsha resident, Mrs Gloria Anaeze said: “Once you are boarding public transport in Onitsha, be it tricycle, mini-bus or normal buses, you must be on the alert, else, you may just be handing yourself over to your kidnappers. I cannot count the number of times I have lost phones to hoodlums in Onitsha.”
Anambra State Police command had through a press release by the Public Relations Officer, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga said that the command was working to ensure that such small crimes were done with.
In the release to journalists during the Easter and Salah celebration, Ikenga said the command had made deployment of operatives to public places and taken note of flashpoints to ensure safety of Anambra indigenes and residents alike.